Superfly Bourbon Club’s Best Of 2017
By now, you may have read countless “Best Of” articles and you’re just about ready to vomit bourbon all over your ugly Christmas sweater, but stay strong because you have one more to read! Don’t worry though, we’re not going to sit here and tell you Crown Royal’s Salted Caramel Whiskey is the best no matter how much money Diageo throws at us! No, but we will tell you our honest assessment of bottles we truly believe stood out in front of the rest of this years’ releases. The bottles on our list were the outcomes of our painstaking process of extreme scientific research consisting of drinking copious amounts of anything that came out in 2017. We’ve decided on a “Top 5 Bourbons of 2017” list as well as a few “Best Of” categories in other areas of the whiskey world.
When it comes to whiskey lists, none of the ones you read online will always speak to your particular palate
except this one, but the purpose of these lists is to recognize some top quality whiskey created, blended, and sourced by the hands of whiskey experts from Kentucky and across the United States of America. Now before we start tearing up, let’s get to our “Best Of” bottles from this year.
OLD BALDY STRAIGHT BLENDED WHISKEY – BATCH #1
Old Baldy was the product of a perfect combination between Jeff Mattingly of Bourbon30 Spirits, Ed Bley of Cork ‘N’ Bottle, and 35 barrels to play with. Ed expertly paired it down to 5 barrels used to create what is just simply wonderful. It is by far one of the richest whiskies I’ve tasted and drinks way below it’s labeled ABV leaving a gentle long-lasting finish. This bottle wasn’t easy to acquire as the finished product only yielded 320 bottles and sold only at Cork ‘N’ Bottle in Northern Kentucky. Nonetheless, Ed Bley is working on future batches as we speak which will definitely increase the chances of you being able to get one!
KENTUCKY OWL 11 YEAR RYE
Although the information regarding the source of this rye whiskey remains a secret, the 11 year candied-clove forward rye whiskey was a true home run from Dixon Dedman. The price is scary at first (msrp $129.99), but it’s worth squeezing it in your monthly budget. It’s also totally worth grabbing a backup bottle as it seems to have an endless supply continuing to pour into liquor stores across the country. Not only that but this is only Batch 1 of many that will now start becoming a regular release from Kentucky Owl.
Best Bourbon Product
WATSON’S BOURBON BARREL AGED MAPLE SYRUP
It seemed that 2017 brought in a surge of “Bourbon Barrel Aged” products and were all eating it up! Everything from coffee beans to hot sauce were getting the barrel aged treatment. We’re all for that over here! We think this is an awesome lane to drive the bourbon culture forward. Now out of all the barrel aged product out there, maple syrups seem to be the popular test subject at the moment. One company in particular totally wowed us, and that’s Watson’s with their Barrel Aged Maple Syrups. They actually source single barrels used at our favorite distilleries/breweries and age the syrup in those single barrels. They’re able to impart the unique flavors from the one barrel instead of aging in a subpar barrel with a blended end-product. Out of all the barrel aged maple syrups we’ve tried, Watson’s shows how barrel aging truly affects the syrup.
Best Private Barrel Pick
Gaspar’s Liquor Shoppe Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Tampa, Florida
We think more store picks are the wave of the future, it gives a store owner the ability to choose their very own single barrel of whiskey and purchase the entire barrel to be bottled exclusively for their customers. Nowadays folks have caught onto this and Store Picks often sell out the same day they’re delivered! This was an especially tough category to pick as there are just SO MANY good picks out there but we wanted to choose something local to one of us and as many of you know we have a large presence in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. Gaspar’s Liquor Shoppe is a relatively small shop located in the Temple Terrace area of Tampa and they are well known for having 8-10+ store picks on the shelf at any time and great prices to match. This particular barrel of Russle’s Reserve is an exceptional example of what Wild Turkey is capable of. Oily and rich with notes of vanilla bean and cinnamon sugar cereal balanced perfectly by a strong oak finish this is our 2017 Private Barrel of the year.
Best Bottle In B.T.A.C
THOMAS H. HANDY SAZERAC
We thought it would be silly to include any bottle in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection in any Top Whiskey lists based on the recognition and praise of taste they already receive. Although it’s hard not to talk about them at all, so instead we thought we’d pit them against each other rather than comparing them to other whiskies on the shelf. This year, we decided Thomas H Handy Rye was the best. Of course it’s hard not to give it to our princess, the William Larue Weller, but we both were blown away with the Handy’s burst of tart apple pie on the palate with a rich and oily mouthfeel toasting with a crystal clean rye spice finish that lasts for days. Being a 6 year old rye whiskey and one of the cheapest from the lineup, if I had my pick of the lot I’d go for this one every time.
Best Craft Whiskey
MOSSWOOD DISTILLERY’S ESPRESSO BARREL FINISH WHISKEY – BATCH #4
Since 2015, Mosswood Distillery has been sourcing excellent barrels that they then modify for interesting finishes. When we came across their Espresso barrel finish and tasted it for the first time, we were instantly hooked. Once the whiskey has matured it’s finished in a barrel seasoned with cold brew from Four Barrel Coffee’s Espresso roast. Furthermore, this exact batch was selected by Healthy Spirits in SF at cask strength for a huge 134 proof punch to the liver! Upfront it has this spice, oak and cinnamon taste to it with deep roasted coffee bean undertones making a truly unique tasting experience. We like to use ours for our famous Kentucky Flat White cocktail.
AMERICAN FREEDOM DISTILLERY’S HORSE SOLDIER 8 YEAR
Perhaps you’ve heard of the new movie 12 Strong about how the first soldiers deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11 went in on horseback? This whiskey isn’t dedicated to those guys, its MADE by those guys. We don’t want to go into too much detail just yet as we’re working on another detailed article all about American Freedom Distillery in the future but let’s just say they are the real deal!. The bottle molds they use are cast from steel recycled from the Twin Towers, so every time you hold a bottle you’re touching a piece of American History. Did we mention this is an EIGHT YEAR OLD WHEATER WITH A BARREL PROOF VERSION? This is just the first release from American Freedom Distillery but needless to say we’ll be staying tuned (and keeping you informed) on any future releases!
TOP 5 BOURBONS OF 2017
Sometimes we feel Old Forester is only paid attention to when the Birthday Bourbon comes out, but little do most average drinkers know, that some of their regular releases are excellent drinkers. This year, a special release based off a movie hit the shelves and right on cue… bourbon drama. How could something sounding gimmicky be good whiskey when clearly it’s a money grab. Well, let us be the ones to tell you that the Statesman is one hell of a whiskey. It mostly reminds us of the quality used to create the Birthday Bourbon with similar standout notes. The citrus and soft wood on the nose prepares the palate for a candied corn and fruity oak finish. With the price tag being decent at $53 and easy to find, this bottle just needs to be in your home bar.
With the heartbreaking loss of Parker Beam earlier this year, we knew the Parker’s Heritage release would be an awesome send-off for the legend. Most people thought the news of it being an 11 year single barrel was underwhelming, however the magic behind Parker’s existence in the bourbon world had more to do with the barrels than any age statement. Of course, when we finally purchased our bottle we were in awe of the rich barrel char with tobacco and cherry coating our entire mouth. This particular barrel we bought was heavier on the cherry tobacco than others we’ve sampled and made us all the more happy in the bottle we found.
Willett has been well known for years for sourcing and bottling excellent whiskey, we think by now most of you have heard of them or at least seen the unique Willett Pot Still bottle on the shelf somewhere but this is different. This is actually their own distillate! When we first saw these bottles being released we’ll be honest we rolled our eyes at the low age and relatively high price tag but once we actually tasted a bottle, we were completely blown away! For only being 5 years old this bottle was amazingly rich and well balanced. The whiskey is very floral and full of figs and honey blossoms with a softer oak influence due to the age. We know right now this is near impossible to find unless you live near the distillery in Kentucky but as they increase production they plan to widen their distribution so think of this as a heads up for when they do start to make it out of the state and hopefully into your area in the coming years. Trust us, if you see some of their own distillate in your area (states: Distilled, Aged and Bottled by The Willett Distillery on the back label) grab it!
#2 – ELIJAH CRAIG BARREL PROOF BATCH B517 “Lot B”
We debated hard on whether this should be number one, but one other beat it solely on taste. Heaven Hill released three different batches of ECBP this year and honestly we could give the award to the line collectively they were all so delicious. Some publications have already released their Top lists and of course gave the number 1 spot to batch B517. We couldn’t agree more! The wide availability of this bottle and the decent price of $65, the barrel proof version of the standard 12 year is quite possibly the best bourbon with the Elijah Craig name on the bottle. This is similar the Parker’s Heritage single barrel, only sweeter with a more balanced finish, making it a lot more delicious.
#1 – AL YOUNG’S FOUR ROSES 50TH ANNIVERSARY SMALL BATCH
We went back and forth about the #1 pick for awhile but ultimately it was no question it has to be Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch for Al Young’s 50th Anniversary. It’s just so rich and oily with notes of dark fruit that are perfectly balanced with warm oak from the 23 year old whiskey it contains. In addition to being an exquisite glass of whiskey it has one of the coolest looking bottles we’ve seen in awhile, it pays homage a man who has dedicated FIFTY YEARS of his life to this amazing industry we all love so much. All in all we both agree that this whiskey deserves the highest of praises and if you weren’t lucky enough to find one this year we encourage you to find a glass at your local bar, trust us, you won’t regret it.